Tools and Products

July 11, 2011

Canadian invention helps you hang art work with no arguing

This is a really cool invention from Canadian designer Liette Tousignant.  And it helps you hang anything from photos to small cabinets without the usual disagreements from relatives of different heights.


June 09, 2011

Wicked Tek4 battery technology runs compact Ryobi accessories

I'm a huge fan of lithium-ion battery technology.  Lithium-ion holds a full charge for up to 18 months without draining, it's quick to charge and doesn't have the 'memory' problem that NiCad batteries have (i.e. if you don't charge them fully, they forget that they have extra storage, so they just get lamer and lamer over time until they're barely taking a charge at all). 

I wish some manufacturer would produce rechargeable AA and AAA lithium-ion batteries but until that happens, Ryobi has created the Tek 4 lithium-ion battery (which contains enough juice to match three regular AA batteries).  And they've also developed a bunch of very cool accessories that run on Tek 4, including noise suppression headphones that rock your own tunes, cell phone chargers, cameras etc.  Available at the Home Depot.


May 30, 2011

Summer backyard lighting in under 5 minutes with laser lights

This is a really cool, ultra-low power consumption (more efficient than LEDs), incredibly beautiful 'fairies and fireflies effect' technology for backyard lighting.  You don't even need an electrician because you can run it off an extension cord with the available transformer, so you're done in under 5 minutes.  And because you just have to aim one lamp to cover a huge 600+ square foot area, you don't even need ladders.  Read more in my newspaper column (plus the manufacturer offers a discount to my readers).


May 26, 2011

Mix your own non-toxic weed killer

Thistles suck and they resprout from a piece of root 1/8 of an inch long.  Learn how to get rid of them without going to the dark side (i.e. chemical killers). 

We re-graded the yard a year ago and its green pelt has sprouted a crop of thistles that would repel Norwegian invaders (which is exactly what happened in Scotland in the 13th century and that’s why Scots made the thistle their official plant.  I hope they’re happy.)

Is it possible to eradicate the thorny infestation?  

Before you answer, here’s some trivia about Canada thistle, the over-muscled cousin of Scottish thistle:
•    Its seeds remain viable for up to 21 years
•    Its taproot can travel to a depth of 5.5 meters (18 feet)
•    Lateral roots can extend as much as 6 meters (20 feet) in a single season
•    Those lateral roots produce colonies of clones
•    New plants can erupt from root pieces as small as 3 mm (1/8-inch)

Thistles are the zombies of the weed world.

Dandelions aren’t much better.  They’re poking through my heavily mulched flowerbeds as if to say, “Nice try, but a 10-inch thick layer of mulch is like a 4 SPF sunscreen for us piss-a-beds.”  (Dandelions used to be called 'piss-a-beds' because of their strong diuretic properties.)

I’ve found three effective, natural weed-disciplining techniques.  One is cheap, one is easy and one is so much fun you’ll squeal.

1. Cheap Homemade Solution: Boil 1 pound of salt in one gallon of white vinegar until the salt dissolves.  Add a squirt of dish soap.  Pour the cooled mixture into a spray bottle.  Apply to weed foliage.  This concoction kills anything green in about 24 hours and that includes grass, so watch your aim.  Cost: About $4

2. Scotts EcoSense Weed B Gon - The kid-and-pet-safe EcoSense formulation exposes weeds to excessive amounts of iron (absorbed through their leaves and roots when you spray it on).  Oxidation damages the interior cell walls and the weed turns black and shrivels to nothing over the next five days. The beauty of EcoSense Weed B Gon is that it only attacks broadleaf weeds, not grass (iron is actually a nutrient for turf), so you can spray it all over your lawn and only the weeds will die.  Suck it, weeds.  Cost: $20 for 2 litres, available at most hardware and gardening centers.

Weeds  062

3. Fiskars Stand-up Weed Puller - This is the squealy one. This tool rocks, literally and figuratively.  You don’t have to bend over at all to pull out weeds, even stubborn thistles.  At its business end, this lightweight implement has steel tines that grab the weed underneath the soil surface.  When you gently rock back on the handle (using the foot rest as a fulcrum) the weed comes out easily with roots intact.

Weeds  068
There are two Fiskars models - the basic model is $30 but it’s a bit short for good leverage, so if you can spend $50 on the extendable-handle model, it’s worth it for the extra length.  TIP:  The smaller the weed, the shallower you press the tines.  This will limit the size of the resulting soil divot.  Available at Canadian Tire.

I collected a heaping bushel basket of thistles in under an hour using my Stand-Up Weed Puller.  It’s the most fun you can have while naked from the ankles down.

May 19, 2011

Recharge your disposable batteries - finally!

Disposable Batteries Can Be Recharged

I've tried every single rechargeable battery and they all suck.  They don't hold a charge and they only seem to have about one third the power of a regular alkaline disposable battery. 

So it was good news to read this morning in Home Improvement Retailing that the very first ‘non-rechargeable’ alkaline battery charger certified for use in Canada has arrived at RONA. Available under the RONA ECO brand, it makes it possible to recharge alkaline, or ‘regular disposable,’ batteries. It can recharge four AA or AAA batteries at a time. The recharge time only takes 90 minutes and the charger can recharge the same battery up to 200 times, raising the average life expectancy of a battery from eight hours to 1,600 hours.

I will get my hands on one of these as soon as possible and let you know whether this technology actually works better than my huge pile of relatively useless eco-chargers that I've been buying since the Eighties.

May 02, 2011

A new Canadian tool that's both screwdriver and compact driver index for your power drill

The Scruzol is an awesome little Canadian invention that might be the last screwdriver you'll ever buy. (Here's how to find Scruzol in the U.S.)



Screw It!

A Canadian makes screwing convenient again...


Continue reading "A new Canadian tool that's both screwdriver and compact driver index for your power drill" »

April 27, 2011

Aesop's Labels - Who can live without a labeler?

I have vestigial secretarial abilities. Perhaps you do too.


April 20, 2011

Bang-Up Job - Choosing a hammer that fits

My hammer collection is hovering close to 50; they're like jewels to me.  Here are a few that might work for you. 


March 21, 2011

Easy Slider: Move heavy stuff without relatives, furniture dollies or brute strength

Magnetic Thinking Putty: Bouncing Putty infused with magnetic properties


Evolution comes to silly putty! This site sells some goofy stuff and some 'curiously awesome' products.


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Mag's Books

  • : We're All In This Together

    We're All In This Together
    Based on four years of interviews with Steve Smith, Mag's unconventional biography reveals the personal stories, sorrows and joys that continue to inspire the man behind the Red Green legacy.

  • : How Hard Can It Be?

    How Hard Can It Be?
    Mag's quirky and entertaining book of home improvement projects for beginners.

Nota Bene

  • It’s never too late to be who you might have been. - George Eliot (1819-1880)
  • Simplicity of character is the natural result of profound thought. - My fortune cookie